Barbie’s Champion Comes To Gap’s Rescue
Richard Dickson, credited for reviving the Barbie franchise and growing other brands including Hot wheels, and Fisher-Price, now to be the new CEO of Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) along with brands – Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy.
Currently though, Gap’s stock price is reaching close to all time lows again – like pandemic times of April 2020 – and aligning with stock values, it was at 26 years ago.
Gap used to be a recognized and symbolic brand for Americans, known for high-quality basics like t-shirts, khakis, hoodies and casual wear. Gap’s denim was one of its standout products for many years. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Gap was so popular that it not only followed trends but often created them – which were emulated by competitors – as their basics became staples for many consumers.
Can Dickson really bring Gap back to its glory days?
Dickson started his career at the executive trainee program at Bloomingdale’s, next co-founded gloss.com, an ecommerce cosmetics company that was acquired by Estee Lauder, proceeding which in 2000, joined Mattel, where he collectively spent 20 years. From 2002, Barbie’s peak sales at $1.52 billion dropped 28% by 2009. Barbie, which used to be around 90% of the fashion doll market share once, dropped to less than 50% by 2009. Consequently Dickson took initiative and pioneered the purging of “brand goulash” as he calls it – delineating a hodgepodge dish. From reducing the number of licensing agreements which had climbed all the way to a 1000, to removing custom orders for retailers like Walmart – he directed the new Barbie image. It catapulted Barbie’s US sales 18% in a single quarter in early 2009, its highest upturn in almost 3 years prior since 2006. At the time, even CEO of Toys “R” Us, Gerald Stortch quoted, “Barbie is on a tear.”
Afterwards, in 2010, leaving to work with Jones Apparel (an apparel company with brands like Stuart Weitzman, and Nine West under its umbrella) and returning in 2014 to Mattel, Dickson became the driving force for Barbie once more. Dickson, this time, brought the different ethnicities and diversity to Barbie, like new body sizes of curvy, petite, and tall, where he quoted: “Today, we represent a vast array of choice, whether it be body or ethnicity.”
While being COO of Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT), Richard had actually become part of Gap’s board since November 2022. In the buildup to the Barbie movie release (the largest opening weekend of 2023), Gap was also part of one of 100 plus licensing partnerships Mattel created – for sales of Barbie merchandise.
Richard’s credibility proceeds with making Mattel one of the most successful toy companies in the world, and that he understands how to revive and turn around established brands. He envisions a “chance to work hand-in-hand with the teams to evolve Gap Inc. for a new era.”
Gap has been on a steady decline in stock price from its recent peak of more than $35 per share from May 2021. Bob Martin, Gap’s Chairman and interim CEO, certainly believes in Dickson and goes as far as to say, “amidst a deliberate and thoughtful search process, it became clear that Richard is destined for his role at this moment. His experience as a proven transformational brand builder and belief in the proven power of inclusivity make him a perfect fit for the Gap Inc.”
Has Gap Inc. made the right choice and can a revival be in store?